We Need New Names Book Review
By Alexis Mercer
I never anticipated becoming a reporter for a newspaper. It wasn’t on my radar. Many years ago I taught journalism as an elective at Newaygo High School. And while it was one of my favorite classes to teach, cuts in funding meant I was needed to teach more core classes. And I have been the yearbook adviser since I started teaching at the high school. But never did I think my own experiences would include being a member of the mainstream media.
Then one day, Ken DeLaat saw me at a district soccer game. I knew Ken through my coaching experiences. And also for his coverage of the NPS bond issue as his first breaking story at Near North Now. I had my camera snapping photos for the yearbook. He said hello and then said “hey, since you’re taking pictures anyway, want to send those to me and maybe do a writeup?” So it began…
Since that day my involvement with Near North Now has become more extensive. I help when I can with technology and online issues. I cover sports and even have a MHSAA tournament badge that gives me entrance into all the games. When my kids want to go to an event, I’m usually in my journalist frame of mind, thinking of how I could cover the story.
I’ve also had a shift in thinking about how I can use this experience as a contributor to Near North Now to highlight the many amazing events and businesses in Newaygo County that I enjoy and hope others can, too.
Which is how a new partnership was born. One I hope will benefit readers of my book reviews and a small business in Newaygo alike.
Beginning with this book review, Flying Bear Books in downtown Newaygo will be carrying each of the books I review. When the review is posted, readers can head that same day into the store and pick up a copy of the book.
If you haven’t been to Flying Bear Books, it truly is a treasure. Not only does the store carry countless thousands of titles, but the staff will order anything you’re looking for at the drop of a hat if it isn’t already on the shelf! Their children’s and teen sections are phenomenal.
In case you’re wondering - I don’t benefit from this monetarily. It is my hope that my love of books and this store both can be shared with all of the readers. It is also my hope that my involvement with Near North Now as a contributor can be positive and helpful to our wonderful community that has given me so much.
So here you go….my next book…
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo was chosen as our next Book Club story. I’ll admit I had never heard of the title. Nor the author. I was clueless going in what to expect.
“We are on our way to Budapest: Bastard and Chipo and Godknows and Sbho and Stina and me. We are going even though we are not allowed to cross Mzilikazi Road, even though Bastard is supposed to be watching his little sister Fraction, even though Mother would kill me dead if she found out; we are just going. There are guavas to steal in Budapest, and right now I’d rather die for guavas.”
Immediately, from this first paragraph on the very first page, I was intrigued. What was I getting into?
Darling is a ten-year-old growing up in a poverty stricken part of Zimbabwe. She and her friends wander the streets, engage in conversations, and play games that are typical of any group of young, curious children. But their living in Zimbabwe makes the story unique. Unlike my own experiences.
There are memories of the times before the poverty. Before the hunger. Before the wars. Most of which Darling is too young to remember, but not too young to hear.
Partway through the book, Darling is forced to leave for America with her relative. Ripped from all she knows, but with the promise of greatness in America, Darling’s story changes drastically. From stealing guavas from the “rich” neighborhood trees in her hometown to learning to assimilate in the country that presents hope.
Through Bulawayo’s writing, I was able to feel Darling’s pain of growing up with two worlds. Wanting to go back, but not wanting to go back. Loving her new home, but loving her old home. Not being understood in her new world, but not being understood by her once inseparable friends at home.
NoViolet Bulawayo’s novel was intriguing, fascinating, heart-breaking and challenging. All in a good way. I found it easy to be transported to a time and place that is absolutely nothing like my own thanks to her flowing writing style. I found it heart-breaking to place myself in the shoes of Darling, and therefore any immigrant, who faces this reality.
This book is exactly why I love being part of a book club. I never would have known about this title if it weren’t chosen for me to read. It was a powerful story that made me think and grow. A definite read for anyone looking to step into someone else’s shoes for a while.
You can pick up your copy at Flying Bear Books today!
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